on the 30 Day Film Challenge. Once it got to genre distinctions, I totally lost interest. It’s a narrow way to describe something anyway. Maybe I’ll do a mass post of what titles I’d put in there at some point. Whatever.
30 Day Film Challenge Day 16 - A Film You Used to Love, Now Hate
(Doing two today to play catch-up)
Batman Forever (Joel Schumacher, 1995)
Barring repetition, Hook would’ve been a viable candidate. Plus, I hammered out my dislike for Sam Mendes’ American Beauty in the Away We Go post leaving that out of the way. With those out of the way, Batman Forever, it’s all about you. This was my favorite of the Burton/Schumacher flicks growing up mainly because of its flash and action, Jim Carrey’s Riddler and first on-screen crush in Nicole Kidman. Let’s say that Kidman still holds up.
I understand how a movie like this happens: Burton alienated Warners and the public after the dark Batman Returns, leaving the room for a campier adaptation of Batman. If I want campy Batman, then I’ll watch ’60s series. This shit tries to have its cake (with the camp) and eat it (trying to serve up actual drama), too. At this point in the Batman films, they’ve become almost exclusively about the villains and their arcs. Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones take turns chewing scenery and trying to out Nicholson each other and it’s fucking terrible. I like versions of the Riddler, that, you know, actually tell riddles. Val Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne is as comatose as Chris O’Donnell’s Robin is obnoxious. The architecture of Gotham changed overnight from a German expressionist’s nightmare to naked statues holding up buildings. CItizens lived in fear of neon gangs breaking in and rearranging their furniture (kudos to my friend Greg for that joke). Nipples found their way to the batsuit. Ugh, this film is as bad as Batman & Robin, if not worse. At least B&R sticks to being campier and has Arnold’s ridiculously fun Mr. Freeze.
That being said, I do enjoy Elliot Goldenthal’s score. It’s more melodic than Elfman’s and captures the schizophrenic tone of the Schumacher flicks, for better or for worse. I prefer it to the Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard work.
30 Day Film Challenge Day 15 - The Film That Depicts Your Life
High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000)
Excuse the pity party for a second, this at least slightly representative of my life right now. Springsteen hasn’t involved himself yet, in person that is. Give me another week and it’ll be back to something more clever and a little more pretentious.
30 Day Film Challenge Day 14 - The Film That No One Expected You to Like
Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009)
Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are.
30 Day Film Challenge Day 13 - A Guilty Pleasure
Phantom of the Paradise (Brian De Palma, 1974)
I’ve never been an advocate of the term “guilty pleasure.” The core idea that you should be ashamed for your taste or having to justify it to others is kind of lame. If you’re aware that you enjoy the hell out of a bad movie, then that’s great. Recontexualizing the term for the purpose of this meme would be “a film that I will champion that gets dismissed by a significant portion of people,” and nothing better exemplifies this for me than De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise.
A rock opera in the mold of Faust and Phantom of the Opera, the film’s stacked with goofy performances (and an insanely cute Jessica Harper), memorable songs, and playful levels of camp and style. To put it simply, this film is to pop music and the Phantom story as Rocky Horror is to ’50s B-horror… except this film is actually good. The major separation would be that it lacks the outrageous sexual element of Rocky, not to say that it makes it better, but that to me is what defines the show both thematically and in its interactive elements.
Anyway, if I can get this film played as a Phantom screening (ugh) at FSU then it would be a miracle.
Other contenders: Alex Cox’s Walker and David Lynch’s Dune
30 Day Film Challenge Day 12 - A Film by Your Least Favorite Director
Away We Go (Sam Mendes, 2009)
Before I start piling onto Mendes, I really do enjoy Road to Perdition. Not only is it a solid gangster picture, but it has one of my favorite Tom Hanks performances along with a slew of others (Jude Law, Daniel Craig, Paul Newman, to name a few). There’s a focus and assuredness to that film in both its style and tone that I haven’t found in his other work. American Beauty’s incredibly simplistic in its character studies and wildly full of its own belief system (Ricky Fitts submarines the entire deal). With Revolutionary Road, I felt distant from both DiCap and Winslet which tells me that the narrative had difficulty moving from literature to the screen (the first season of Mad Men delves into similar thematic territory). Haven’t seen Jarhead so I can’t comment on that.
Away We Go may be his “worst” film in that it has absolutely no focus. Character moments and insights are set aside for strangely overt and dare I say cutesy humor. The whole story is built off of a series of contrivances that, again, may work better as a short story (the script’s written by essayist Dave Eggers and his wife Vendela Vida), but fail as a coherent narrative. Why should this couple go to people they barely know before they see their best friends and Krasinski’s brother-in-law? And what lessons do these people teach them? That parenting is weird and wacky? The cast is fantastic, but I feel that they’re ultimately wasted on both poor material and an unfocused director.
I guess I picked Mendes due to how disproportionate I feel his actual talent is versus his general acclaim. Other contenders include: Robert Rodriguez, Michael Bay, Peter Jackson, Tim Burton. And I outright love two or three of Burton’s films, but he’s been a shell of his former shelf for about a decade now.
30 Day Film Challenge Day 11 - A Film by Your Favorite Director
After Hours (Martin Scorsese, 1985)
I figured I’d highlight this film over Scorsese’s more known gangster pictures and De Niro/DiCaprio pairings for the sake of unpredictability. Aside from GoodFellas, I find this to be his most flat-out entertaining work and easily his most off-beat as the scene above shows. There’s a kineticism and slickness to the film’s style that gels with all of the bizarre plot points and tonal shifts that occur. As far as unwilling protagonists go, Griffin Dunne’s Paul ranks right below Craig Wasson in Body Double which is no small feat.
Fuck yeah, watch this movie.
30 Day Film Challenge Day 10 - A Film with Your Favorite Actress
I’m Not There (Todd Haynes, 2007)
Much like Cary Grant, the reason why Cate Blanchett rocks my socks is due to her total commitment to her craft. She has the allure of a movie star, but will alter her physicality, appearance, and in the case of I’m Not There, her gender in whatever way the role requires. Not to say that her method surpasses that of more traditional movie stars, it’s one that resonates with me in a greater fashion.
While she’s a part of an ensemble in this film, Blanchett gets to tackle arguably the most straightforward portrayal of Bob Dylan’s career and due to the gender-inversion, injects it with a particular layer of intrigue. Also, because she’s so fucking good, you never question any of it. Captain Pike kicks ass, too.
(Other favorite actress performances: Deborah Kerr - Black Narcissus, Katharine Hepburn - Holiday, Ellen Burstyn - The Exorcist, Mia Farrow - Rosemary’s Baby, Faye Dunaway - Network)
30 Day Film Challenge Day 9 - A Film with Your Favorite Male Actor
Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
What appeals to me the most about Cary Grant is his lack of vanity. In the bulk of his greater comic work, he combines his gift for physical comedy (could any star sell a pratfall as well as him?) and rampant verbal wit to subvert any of his more suave tendencies. I’m not trying to shortchange his dramatic work in the least or a genre-bender like North by Northwest; Baby was the first performance of his that came to mind so I just rolled with it.
Bringing Up Baby uniquely jumbles the comic/straight man dynamic between Hepburn and Grant from scene-to-scene, but neither actor tramples over the other in the process. To me, the greatest actor in a scene elevates each other performance around him or her, and in this case, it’s doubled by how ridiculously talented both major players are on top of a solid supporting cast.
My favorite scene’s when Hepburn accidentally steals the wrong purse then rips her dress at the party and the two scheme their way out, but I can’t find it on the YouTubez. This one will suffice.
(Other favorite actors and roles: Robert De Niro - Raging Bull, Jack Nicholson - Five Easy Pieces, Bill Murray - Ghostbusters, Daniel Day-Lewis - Gangs of New York)
30 Day Film Challenge Day 8 - The Film You Can Quote Best
Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)
Dear lord, there’s at least a dozen that also could have qualified. The first Austin Powers, the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (beyond the immortal line/meme), Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, The Big Lebowski, and what have you. Putting Back to the Future in this slot makes the most sense because I’ve probably watched, discussed, joked about and quoted far more times than I probably should have. At least I have the comfort in knowing that a ton of others share a similar passion toward this, meaning that my dialogue/situational shorthand regarding this film.
Congratulations, Jessica. Your namesake made the cut.
30 Day Film Challenge Day 7 - A Film That Reminds You of Your Past
The Sandlot (David M. Evans, 1993)
This film doesn’t get enough credit for being a kick-ass coming of age story, especially in comparison to Stand by Me or The Goonies. I played Little League ball for most of my childhood before “retiring” at age 13. That was the point where I had to get serious about playing ball for a school team or AAU and I didn’t have the talent or the drive. That didn’t stop me from going to summer baseball camps, where we’d watch this at lunch over the course of a few days.
Though the film itself is a nostalgia blast for any kid growing up in the early ’60s, it’s universal in its depiction of the sociability and competitive nature of any set of childhood friends. Plus, I’d liken myself to a combination of Squints and Smalls, only without Squints’ particular bravado as seen above.
30 Day Film Challenge Day 6 - A Film That Reminds You of Some Place
(Doing this and Day 5 back-to-back to catch up to the original schedule)
Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
For all of those trips to the beach as a kid when the water hitting my waistline raised a red flag. Jaws holds a special place in my heart for both being a movie I watched a hell of a lot as a kid and the movie that made me want to make movies. Hell, the tales of the making of the film are almost as engrossing as the finished product. Anyway, this scene encapsulates the attention to character and pathos that most films that ape Jaws’ style and conceit have rarely been able to match. Boo-ya!
30 Day Film Challenge Day 5 - A Film That Reminds You of Someone
Seven (David Fincher, 1995)
This is kind of cruel, but I’m not in a place right now to care. At least I don’t have to keep justifying to this person why a movie like this should exist. There is evil in the world, there is hate, there is cynicism, and Seven’s an examination of how these elements prey on the goodness of man. Morgan Freeman’s Somerset says it best in his final line: “Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.”
30 Day Film Challenge Day 4 - A Film You Watch to Feel Down
Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray, 1956)
I still don’t know what this means exactly, since it would be ridiculous to watch something for the express purpose of depressing myself. If I took this question literally, I’d repeat my “Least Favorite” film entry. Maybe it’s to be taken as “a film that you like that is also a tragedy of sorts?” Fuck it, that’s what I’m rolling with.
Ray’s Bigger Than Life depicts a schoolteacher’s (James Mason) free fall into madness after using an experimental drug. Does the drug corrupt the man or only show his true colors? In his performance, Mason unearths a man driven by an Abraham Complex, tired of the artifice he finds in his suburban culture. The scene above illustrates the menace that permeates throughout the film… you can cut that shit with a knife. Anyone who says that in the ’50s, the suburban family unit was only portrayed as idyllic is dead wrong and this is why.
30 Day Film Challenge Day 3 - A Film You Watch to Feel Good
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (Tim Burton, 1985)
I can’t think of anything to say to give this particular clip justice. Watch it and if you don’t smile at least once, I don’t know what to tell you.
During my first semester here are FSU, I've watched a minimum of 44 different films. That doesn't include those that I watched on Netflix or in...
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